Catinaccio/Rosengarten: in the
“Garden of the Roses” of King Laurin.

The Catinaccio group (Rosengarten-Gruppe or simply Rosengarten in German; Ciadenac in Ladin) is a massif of the Dolomites, situated between the Valle di Tires/Tierstal, the Val dEga/Eggental and the Val di Fassa, partly protected by the Parco Naturale dello Sciliar/Naturpark Schlern, one of the seven Natural Parks of South Tyrol (see below).

The more internal valleys in the mountain chain are (from W to E) the Val di Vael, the Val di Vajolet, the Val di Udai, the Val di Dona and the Val Duron. The Catinaccio group extends on both the territories of Trentino and South Tyrol, straddling the two provinces of Trento and Bolzano/Bozen, and dominating – although from a distance, as it lies about 20 km away – the skyline of Bolzano itself, as a characteristic backdrop to the E of the city.

The most individual peculiarity of the Catinaccio group is the pink tinge that its rocks take on at dusk, a visual phenomenon known as enrosadira in Ladin – an idiom somehow encompassing a combination of both Italian and German.

The Ladin name of the massif Ciadenac – is in fact at the basis of the original Italian name (Catenaccio), then evolved into the most current Italian spelling form, Catinaccio, presumably to be referred – according to the historian and ethnologist Karl Felix Wolff – to the gravel typical of any Dolomite mountain chain, but particularly conspicuous here.

However, there exist two original names of the mountain, related to the two sides of the range, which also somehow acts as a watershed between the Latin and German worlds (always bearing in mind that the Ladin langauage and culture are also present). Now that we have dealt with Catinaccio, we have to turn to the other name.

The “Garden of the Roses

One of the peculiar characteristics of the Catinaccio is the pink color that the rocks take on at dawn and dusk. This phenomenon is due to the chemical composition of the walls of the Dolomites, which are of course composed of a rock known as ‘Dolomite’, formed of double calcium carbonate and magnesium, reflecting the low rays of the sun. In the Ladin language, this phenomenon takes the name of enrosadira – a word which literally means ‘becoming pink’.

The other name of the mountain, then – the German Rosengarten, commonly used on the South Tyrolean side since as early as the 15th century – makes a reference precisely to this. It is related also to the legend of the mythical King Laurin (see below); therefore, the name is of an etiologic character – that is, it is based on the actual phenomenon of the enrosadira.

Without a doubt, the explanation of this phenomenon given by the legend is by far more enthralling than the bare scientific facts; additionally, this is also one of the most celebrated sagas of the Dolomites, and it is commonly known as the “Legend of King Laurin”.

And so the legend goes: Laurin was a peaceful king, ruling over a kingdom inhabited by dwarves who faithfully worked for him, and he had a splendid, lovingly tended Garden of Roses on the slopes of the Catinaccio/Rosengarten (which is literally – still to this day, as we have seen – the German name of the mountain).

One day, the Prince of Latemar (a nearby mountain), made curious – but perhaps also envious by the presence of the roses, strayed into the kingdom of Laurin and saw his daughter, Ladinia (today, Ladinia is also the name of the region where the Catinaccio/Rosengarten is situated). He fell in love with her at first sight; therefore, he kidnapped her in order to make her his bride.

King Laurin, desperate, did not wage a war against the Prince of Latemar, but cast a spell on his Garden of Roses, guilty of having revealed the location of his kingdom, which in turn had deprived him of his beloved daughter: “Neither by day”, he sentenced, “nor by night, will this garden ever be visible again”. In his curse, however, Laurin forgot those few moments which are neither fully light nor completely dark – dawn and dusk – and that is when, still to this day, the garden and its enchanting colors become visible once again in all of their glory.

The saga of the “Garden of the Roses” has also given its name to the so-called ‘Gartl’ – the gravelly section visible at the centre of the highest peak from afar, which is often being mistaken as snow, as it appears of a dazzling white from a distance.


From a more strictly geographical point of view, the Catinaccio/Rosengarten is subdivided into eight sub-groups: Principe (a); Molignon-Antermoia (b); Larsec (c); Valbona (d); Catinaccio Centrale (e); Dorsale Nigra-Montalto di Nova (f); Coronelle-Mugioni (g) and, finally, Roda di Vael (h). Each of these sub-groups also comprises several other minor groups and ridges.

The most elevated peak is Catinaccio d’Antermoia (3,004 m). Other celebrated peaks include: Cima Catinaccio (2,981 m), Croda dei Cirmei (2,902 m), Cima Scalieret (2,887 m), Torri di Vajolet (2,821 m), Croda di Re Laurino (2,813 m), Cima Sforcella (2,810 m), Roda di Vael (2,806 m), Pizzo di Valbona (2,802 m), Cima delle Poppe (2,768 m), Croda Davoi (2,745 m), Crepe di Lausa (2,719 m), Cima di Mezzo del Principe (2,705 m), Cogolo di Larsec (2,679 m), Punta Emma (2,617 m) and the Torre Gardeccia (2,483 m).

The Torri di Vajolet are a group of six calcareous needles that rise at the centre of the Catinaccio/Rosengarten group, and they are perhaps its most characteristic emblem.

The Catinaccio range today is protected by the Natural Park Sciliar-Catinaccio/Naturpark Schlern-Rosengarten, a natural area of 6,796 ha located in the western Dolomites. The reserve was instituted in 1974, first of the seven parks now composing the network of Natural Parks of South Tyrol;  together with the protected area of the Alpe di Siusi/Seiseralm it forms a much vaster territory. The two most famous peaks comprised within the perimeter of park are Punta Santner and Punta Euringer, while the Sciliar (Schlern) has its maximum elevation at Monte Petz (2,563 m); only since 2003 was the Catinaccio also included as part of the Natural Park area.

Mountaineering History

The first ascent to the highest peak – the Catinaccio dAntermoia – dates back to 1872, and was carried out by a group of English mountaineers composed by C. Comyns Tucker, T. H. Carson and A. Bernard.

But in terms of its mountaineering history, and how the different peaks were conquered, the Catinaccio/Rosengarten mountain range has many other interesting and rich stories to tell – so let’s see some of them now.

The Torre Delago (2,790 m) was given its name by the fact that it was first conquered by Hermann Delago in 1895; a similar story applies to the Torre Stabeler (2,805 m), won over by H. Stabeler and H. Helversen in July 1892.

The famous Torre Winkler (SE wall; 2,800 m) was conquered by Georg Winkler in 1887, while the Torre Nord (North Tower, 2,810 m) was also won over by the same Stabeler and Helversen in the summer of 1892. The Torre Principale (Main Tower; 2,821 m) was conquered by L. Bernard and G. Merzbacher in 1882, while finally the Torre Est (East Tower, 2,813 m) was yet another enterprise of the couple Stabeler/Helversen, in July 1892.

Given the great number of sub-groups into which the range is divided, the Catinaccio also presents several mountain passes. They are listed below in order of decreasing altitude: Passo di Antermoia/Pass (2,770 m); Passo Santner (2,734 m); Passo delle Pope (2,720 m); Passo di Lausa (2,700 m); Passo delle Coronelle (2,630 m); Passo del Principe (2,599 m); Passo di Molignon (2,598 m); Passo del Vajolon (2,560 m); Passo delle Cigolade (2,553 m); Passo di Dona (2,516 m); Passo Alpe di Tires (2,443 m); Passo delle Scalette (2,348 m); Passo delle Ciaresole (2,282 m); Passo Duran (2,204 m) and Passo di Costalunga/Costalungapass (1,752 m).

Alpine Huts in the Area

Considering the not excessive extension of the range, the Catinaccio/Rosengarten group also posseses a significatively high number of ‘Rifugi’ (Alpine huts): this is a fact that can be explained with the high presence of tourists, hikers and mountaineers in the area – especially during the summer months. The most important Alpine huts are listed below.

– The Rifugio Ciampediè (1,998 m, open in the summer season but also in winter) is situated in the municipality of Vigo di Fassa, from which it can be easily reached via cable car (like the Rifugio Negritella, 1,950 m; open summer only), but it can also be accessed via chairlift from Pera di Fassa.

There are various walking connections which can be used by excursionists; between Rifugio Ciampediè and Rifugio Gardeccia, for example, one can follow the characteristic “Sentiero delle Leggendea walk suitable to all, which explains with wooden boards the most popular Legends of the Dolomites, such as the one on King Laurin just mentioned above, so important to this the area.

The Rifugio Gardeccia (1,949 m; summer only), as we have seen, is connected to the former hut by a trail, and is located in the muncipality of Pozza di Fassa; together with Rifugio Catinaccio (1,946 m) and Rifugio Stella Alpina (1,972 m) (both summer only) all three huts can also be reached from Pera di Fassa with a shuttle service.

The Rifugio Vajolet (2,243 m; open summer only) is another Alpine hut in the territory of Vigo di Fassa, and one of the most important in the area. Its origins can be traced back to 1897, when a first building was erected by the German Alpine Club, to which further buildings were added until the last enlargement in 1912, before the hut finally became Italian in 1923.

The hut is situated in a locality known as Porte Neigre” (Black Doors), right under the Torri del Vajolet, in a position which makes it an ideal starting point for several excursions (as well as proper mountaineering ascents) in altitude. A little distance away from the Rifugio Vajolet is Rifugio Preuss, a small Alpine hut (summer only) also situated in the municipality of Vigo di Fassa, at 2,243 m.

The Rifugio Preuss was built in the 1920s on the initiative of the famous local Alpine guide and mountaineer Tita Piaz, and it is dedicated to another – lesser known – Austrian alpinist, Paul Preuss. Like the Rifugio Vajolet, it is also located in the area known as “Porte Neigre” – under the Torri del Vajolet on a rocky crag suspended above the Vajolet valley (‘Vallone del Vajolet’), just a few metres away from the historic Rifugio Vajolet.

The Rifugio Re Alberto (Gartlhütte) is an Alpine hut situated in the municipality of Tires/Tiers, in South Tyrol, at 2.621 m (open in summer only). The first construction dates back to 1929, when Marino Pederiva erected a small wooden cabin in this location, which was then acquired by the great Alpinist Tita Piaz, who in 1933 had the first Rifugio built up here. The actual denomination is due to honor Albert I, King of Belgium, who used to make his excursions in the Dolomites together with Tita Piaz, accompanied also by the Alpine guide Vitale Bramani and others. It was extended and restructured on a couple of occasions, until reaching its actual aspect.

The hut is located in the Gartl basin, extended at the foot of the Torri del Vajolet, in an ideal position from which to embark on many excursions and ascents. The hut can be accessed in two different ways: from the Rifugio Gardeccia passing by the Rifugio Vajolet and then – after that – through the basin comprised between Punta Emma and the Torre Est (1h30 in total), or from the Rifugio Fronza alle Coronelle rising along the 'Via Ferrata Santner' and passing the homonymous ‘Rifugio’ and pass (2 h).

From the Re Alberto hut are easily accessible the Piz Piaz (2,690 m), the Torre Delago (2,790 m), the Torre Stabeler (2,805 m), the Torre Winkler (2,620 m) and the ‘Anticima Nord’ of the Catinaccio (2,911 m).

The Rifugio Passo Santner (open summer only) is located in the municipality of Nova Levante/Welschnofen. It is set right against the two imposing walls of Cima Catinaccio, which with its 2,981 m is the second highest mountain in the whole range. To the east it is connected through a glacial valley to the Re Alberto mountain hut, while to the west a precipice falls sheer for almost 1,000 m, crossed by the Via Ferrata del Passo Santner, in turn connecting this hut to the Rifugio Fronza alle Coronelle. The construction of the Passo Santner mountain hut dates back to 1956.

The Rifugio Passo Principe is a mountain hut situated in the municipality of Pozza di Fassa, at 2,601 m (summer only, but occasionally open on winter weekends also). It was erected in 1952, and its first construction took place in the valley floor, then it was dismantled and brought in altitude on one’s shoulders piece by piece and reconstructed there! This Alpine hut is composed of two separate small buildings, right on the Passo Principe, by the opening between the Cima Piccola di Valbona and the Catinaccio d'Antermoia, the highest peak of the entire group. It is located in an ideal position for starting several excursions and ascents. Nearby Rifugio Duca di Pistoia, at a much lower altitude (1,774 m), is open all year round.

The Rifugio Fronza alle Coronelle (2,337 m) is also situated in the municipality of Vigo di Fassa, in the western sector of the range. It is located at the foot of the wall of Cresta Davoi, in a dominant position overlooking Passo Nigra. It is the base for excursions on the Coronelle and to the Cima Roda di Vaèl, when ascending from Passo di Vaiolon. The roundtrip around the Cima Catinaccio passes through the ‘Via Ferrata’ of Passo Santner, the Vajolet Towers and the Passo delle Coronelle (or of Vaiolon). This mountain hut is open summer only, and it can be reached also with a cable car from Passo Costalunga.

The Rifugio Roda di Vaèl (2,283 m; open summer only) is also situated in the territory of Vigo di Fassa. It was inugurated in 1906 by the German Alpine Club, and it was then given to the Italian Alpine Club in 1921 by the military authorities, after this part of the Alps was annexed to Italy. The Alpine hut was then completely renovated between 1983-86. It is located on the southernmost fringes of the Catinaccio, which makes it a good starting point for several excursions and ascents in that part of the range. It is very close to the Baita Marino Pederiva.

The Baita Marino Pederiva (2,275 m) is a small Alpine hut (in fact, it doesn’t even bear the name ‘Rifugio’). Like the previous facility, it is on the southernmost fringes of the range, and it affords a useful base from where to explore this section of the massif.

The Rifugio Bergamo al Principe (Grasleitenhütte, 2,134 m; open summer only). is located on the western side of the Catinaccio, in the Valle del Ciamin. It was built in 1887 by the German Alpine Club, and later acquired by the Bergamo branch of the Italian Alpine Club (hence the name), which renovated it several times. It is a privileged starting point for excursions in the upper Val del Ciamin and for ascents to the Torre del Principe and the Pizzo di Valbona (2,802 m).

The Rifugio Antermoia (2,496 m), open summer only, is one of the numerous mountain huts present in the Val di Fassa basin. It is situated in the Vallone dAntermoia, just a few hundred meters away from the lake bearing the same name, which is along the route of the yellow itinerary of the Via Alpina. The original building that hosts the Antermoia mountain hut dates to 1911, but it was renovated in the occasion of the opening of the yellow itinerary of the Via Alpina in the 1980s. In the last few years the ‘Rifugio’ was fully endowed with photovoltaic panels, thus turning to clean energy while providing valuable information to the visitors on the use of renewable energies.

The Rifugio Alpe di Tires (2,440 m; also summer only, usually until half October, but even during the winter season it will provide some basic accommodation) is located in the municipality of Tires/Tiers, at the foot of the Denti di Terrarossa (Rosszähne), on the watershed between the Val di Fassa and the Val di Tires/Tiersstal, in the territory of the Parco naturale dello Sciliar/Naturpark Schlern.

The Alpe di Tires mountain hut was erected after WW2, at a time when poverty was still forcing many people to emigrate. Maximilian Aichner – a local boy – thus decided to climb the northern face of the Catinaccio dAntermoia and reach in that way the Denti di Terrarossa, at the foot of the Alpe di Tires (Tierseralm) itself. From there he reached the Passo Tires, where he started to build the original hut in 1957. For the following five years, he brought the materials by hand from the Val Ciamin – it was definitely a different time from now, and this anecdote goes a long way to show the enthusiasm that infused the pioneer lovers of these mountains, who contributed so much with their unseen efforts to make them famous the world over: it is also to such people that we owe the current listing of the Dolomites among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Only in 1963 could the mountain hut be officially inaugurated, and since then it has undergone several transformations, mainly with extensions that made it more suitable for overnight stay. While Max Aichner was completing his work, he also opened two ‘vie ferrate’: the ‘Ferrata Maximilian’ and the ‘Ferrata Laurenzi’, in honor of his wife, Laura, to further value the mountains that he had always loved so much. Still today, the Alpe di Tires mountain hut is run by Max’s heirs.

This Alpine hut can be accessed from several points: from the Alpe di Siusi/Seiseralm (from the locality of Compaccio/Compatsch, 1,844 m, in 2 h 30); from locality Tschamin (in Tires), across the Tschamin valley and the Buco dell'Orso (Bärenloch) in 3 h 30; from Campitello in the Val di Fassa along the val Duron (3 h).

From the Alpe di Tires it is also possible to start the following excursions and traverses to other mountain huts, such as: the ‘Via Ferrata Maximilian’, which starts right behind the building and brings back to it after a circular trail that can be completed in about 3h; the ‘Via Ferrata Laurenzi’, which from the hut takes to the Rifugio Antermoia; other trails also reach the Rifugio Bolzano (2,450 m), described on the Sciliar (Schlern) page.

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